The United States of Greater Austria (German: Vereinigte Staaten von Groß-Österreich) is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifteen states. The country is situated in Europe, bordered to the west by Switzerland, the Italian Social Republic and Albania, to the north by Germany and the Soviet Union, to the east by Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, and to the south by Greece. At 261,243 square miles (676,615 sq km) and with over 74.85 million people, Greater Austria is the fortieth largest country by total area, and the second largest in Europe.
It is the successor to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which lasted from 1867 until its re-establishment as a federal republic in 1916. Since then, many states - e.g. Bosnia and Herzegovina, East Galicia and Transylvania - have gained greater autonomy, whilst proclaiming allegiance to the Austrian president (currently Barbara Rosenkranz) and the chancellor (currently Heinz-Christian Strache).
Due to its strict neutrality during World War I, Greater Austria emerged as a great military and political power in 1917, and contributed largely to the Versailles peace talks. The Austro-Italian Pact of 1923 brought then-Chancellor Ignaz Seipel and Prime Minister Benito Mussolini into a defensive alliance; this friendship would eventually lead to the two nations fighting alongside each other in World War Two, from which Greater Austria emerged stronger than ever.
Today, it is one of the richest countries in the world, with a nominal per capita GDP of $43,570. The country has developed a high standard of living, and in 2008 was ranked 14th in the world for its Human Development Index. Greater Austria has been a member of the United Nations since 1948, joined the European Union in 1995, and is a founder of the OECD. Austria also signed the Schengen Agreement in 1995, but refused to adopt the European currency, the Euro, in 1999.
Settled in ancient times, the Central European land that is now Austria proper was occupied in pre-Roman times by various Celtic tribes. The Celtic kingdom of Noricum was later claimed by the Roman Empire and made a province. Present day Petronell-Carnuntum in Eastern Austria was an important army camp turned capital city in what became known as the Upper Pannonia province. Fifty thousand people called Carnuntum home for nearly 400 years.
After the fall of the Roman Empire the area was invaded by Bavarians, Slavs and Avars. The Slavic tribe of the Carantanians migrated into the Alps, and established the realm of Carantania, which covered much of eastern and central Austrian territory. Charlemagne conquered the area in 788 AD, encouraged colonisation and introduced Christianity. As part of Eastern Francia, the core areas that now encompass Austria were bequeathed to the house of Babenburg. The area was known as the marchia Orientalis and was given to Leopold of Babenburg in 976.
The first record showing the name Austria is from 996 where it is written as Ostarrîchi, referring to the territory of the Babenburg March. In 1156 the Privilegium Minus elevated Austria to the status of a duchy. In 1192, the Babenbergs also acquired the Duchy of Styria. With the death of Frederick II in 1246, the line of the Babenburgs went extinct.
As a result Otakar II of Bohemia effectively assumed control of the duchies of Austria, Styria and Carinthia. His reign came to an end with his defeat at Dürnkrut at the hands of Rudolf I of Germany in 1278. Thereafter, until World War I, Austria's history was largely that of its ruling dynasty, the Habsburgs. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Habsburgs began to accumulate other provinces in the vicinity of the Duchy of Austria. In 1438 Duke Albert V of Austria was chosen as the successor to his father-in-law, Emperor Sigismund. Although Albert himself only reigned for a year, henceforth every emperor of the Holy Roman Empire was a Habsburg, with only one exception.
The Habsburgs began also to accumulate lands far from the hereditary lands. In 1477 Archduke Maximilian, only son of Emperor Frederick III, married the heiress Maria of Burgundy, thus acquiring most of the Netherlands for the family. His son Philip the Fair married the heiress of Castile and Aragon, and thus acquired Spain and its Italian, African and New World appendages for the Habsburgs. In 1526 following the Battle of Mohács, Bohemia and the part of Hungary not under the Ottomans came under Austrian rule. Ottoman expansion into Hungary led to frequent conflicts between the two empires, particularly evident in the so-called Long War of 1593 to 1606. The Turks made incursions into Hungary nearly twenty times; burning, pillaging and taking thousands of slaves.
During the long reign of Leopold I (1657-1705) and following the successful defence of Vienna in 1683 (under the command of the King of Poland, John III Sobieski), a series of campaigns resulted in bringing all of Hungary to Austrian control by the Treaty of Carlowitz in 1699.
Emperor Charles VI relinquished many of the fairly impressive gains the empire made in the previous years, largely due to his apprehensions at the imminent extinction of the House of Habsburg. Charles was willing to offer concrete advantages in territory and authority in exchange for other powers' worthless recognitions of the Pragmatic Sanction that made his daughter Maria Theresa his heir. With the rise of Prussia the Austrian-Prussian dualism began in Germany. Austria participated, together with Prussia and Russia, in the first and the third of the three Partitions of Poland (in 1772 and 1795).
Austria later became engaged in a war with Revolutionary France, at the beginning highly unsuccessful, with successive defeats at the hands of Napoleon meaning the end of the old Holy Roman Empire in 1806. Two years earlier, in 1804, the Empire of Austria was founded. In 1814 Austria was part of the Allied forces that invaded France and brought to an end the Napoleonic Wars.
It thus emerged from the Congress of Vienna in 1815 as one of four of the continent's dominant powers and a recognised great power. That same year, the German Confederation, (Deutscher Bund) was founded under the presidency of Austria. Because of unsolved social, political and national conflicts the German lands were shaken by the 1848 revolution aiming to create a unified Germany. A unified Germany would have been possible either as a Greater Germany, or a Greater Austria or a German Confederation without Austria at all. As Austria was not willing to relinquish its German-speaking territories to what would become the German Empire of 1848, the crown of the newly formed empire was offered to the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. In 1864 Austria and Prussia fought together against Denmark and successfully freed the independent duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. Nevertheless as they could not agree on a solution to the administration of the two duchies, they fought in 1866 the Austro-Prussian War. Defeated by Prussia in the Battle of Königgrätz, Austria had to leave the German Federation and subsequently no longer took part in German politics.
The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the Ausgleich, provided for a dual sovereignty, the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary, under Franz Joseph I. The Austrian-Hungarian rule of this diverse empire included various Slavic groups including Croats, Czechs, Poles, Rusyns, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenes and Ukrainians, as well as large Italian and Romanian communities. As a result, ruling Austria–Hungary became increasingly difficult in an age of emerging nationalist movements. Yet the government of Austria tried its best to be accommodating in some respects: The Reichsgesetzblatt, publishing the laws and ordinances of Cisleithania, was issued in eight languages, all national groups were entitled to schools in their own language and to the use of their mother tongue at state offices, for example. The government of Hungary to the contrary tried to Magyarise other ethnic entities. Thus the wishes of ethnic groups dwelling in both parts of the dual monarchy hardly could be solved.
In 1906 Romanian lawyer and politician Aurel Popovici proposed the federalisation of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy into the so-called United States of Greater Austria. Though his ideas gained an outcry of public support, Popovici was forced to postpone his campaign, as Austria-Hungary and Italy entered World War One on the German Empire's side in 1915.
On July 2, 1916, the elected German members of the Reichsrat (parliament of Imperial Austria) met in Vienna to discuss the situation in Bosnia, where the rising tide of nationalist feeling threatened Austrian hegemony. Several solutions were put forward, including the proclamation of martial law, the granting of Bosnian independence and the federalisation of the monarchy. Eventually a compromise was made between those who favoured martial law and those who favoured independence - the idea of an Austrian federation. On July 30 the assembly founded the United States of Greater Austria by appointing a government, called Bundesrat. The emperor abdicated, and elections began over the newly-formed country. On 05 August, the Austrian presidential election saw Karl Seitz of the Social Democrats winning a majority vote and thus becoming the first Federal President of Greater Austria. Two days later Karl Renner (also of the Social Democrats) was elected as Chancellor.
The Great War ended in 1917 with victory for the Central Powers. Although most of Italy had been overrun by French troops, the Kriegsmarine had managed to successfully blockade the North Sea, driving the British to near-starvation. Paris was still in French hands, but with few men to protect it against the invading Germans. With all hope lost, the Allies surrendered on 23 May. The Versailles Treaty blamed France for the conflict, and demanded that Germany receive £10 billion within fifteen years time. Italy added British and French Somaliland to her colonial empire, and Ottoman convoys were permitted to pass through the Suez Canal without question. Luxemburg became a province of the Reich, and Greater Austria received Malta.